Audio Feature: Fall Election Preview
Click here to download or play an audio version of this report.
The adage that every election is the most important election is truer than ever this year as voting rights are under attack and democracy in the United States appears in danger. Republicans across the country are attempting to roll back early voting hours, make it more difficult to register to vote, and are even passing laws against handing out water to those waiting at a polling station. Locally, the Republican efforts to stymie turnout have been successful in Rensselaer County, where in June a state Supreme Court justice threw out the county's early voting plan. The court ruled that the locations the board picked were not near mass transit and disenfranchised minority voters. The county appealed the ruling, and kept its polling locations in place for the primary election. But the appeals court then ordered the county to pick another location for early voting in Troy. In early September the Rensselaer County Board of Elections added the Troy Atrium as the city's early voting site for the fall elections Oct. 23-31.
With Republicans the minority party in New York, they are also complaining about unfair treatment and election shenanigans. In November, state voters will consider changes to New York's redistricting process that would cap the number of members in the state Senate at 63 members, and also have prisoners counted at their home address, rather than at the location of the facility where they are incarcerated. Former local Congressional Representative John Faso, a Republican, is concerned about the redistricting measure on the ballot. "They take a carefully constructed bipartisan measure that was adopted by the people, and they would tilt it so that basically it would remove the ability of the minority party, in this case the Republicans, to really have a true input into the redistricting process. That's not what the people voted for back in 2014," Faso tells Spectrum News.
There are several major local campaigns for the Nov. 2 elections. In terms of the amount of political signs along local streets, no race comes close to the Columbia County Sheriff election. Incumbent Republican David Bartlett is being challenged by Don Krapf, a 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, who recently dropped his registration as a Republican to take on Bartlett. The incumbent has been broiled in controversy since last summer, when a party at the home of one of his deputies in Kinderhook ended with a local man being beaten almost to death. The ensuing investigation was first handled by others in the Sheriff’s Office with an obvious conflict-of-interest before being turned over to the State Police. More than a year later no trial date has yet been set for those who stand accused of the alleged assault of Harold J. Handy III. The case has resulted in rallies, a countywide campaign for justice on Handy's behalf, and a host of comments on social media.
In Greene County, Cairo has the most contested elections, as most Republicans are not running for re-election this year in the GOP-led town. Current Cairo Supervisor Dan Benoit, and Councilmembers Dan Joyce and Gary Warner, and Superintendent of Highways Robert Hempstead are all not running for re-election. Longtime Greene County Legislator William Lawrence, who also represents Cairo, is also stepping down. Three Republicans faced off to replace him in a June primary with Michael J. Camadine, backed by the Cairo establishment Republicans, winning with 183 votes, or 42.46 percent. Sherry B. True finished second with 155 votes, or 35.96 percent. Current Cairo Town Supervisor John M. Coyne was third with 85 votes, or 19.72 percent. In Catskill there are several prominent names running for Greene County Legislator seats. Jeff Friedman, president of Greene County Chamber of Commerce, and former Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis are both running, as is WGXC volunteer host Neva Wartell. In Hudson, the Democratic primary largely decides the winners, but for Fifth Ward Alderperson, Vicky Daskaloudi, with 73 votes, and Dominic Merante with 51 votes, won the primary, though Rebecca Borrer was one just vote behind at 50. Borrer is on the Working Families line in the general election, so she still has a chance.
As always, WGXC takes any volunteer programmers running for election off the air during election season. That means that Neva Wartell, who hosts the "Music For the Masses" show, won't be back on the air until November, after her run for Greene County Legislature. Kamal Johnson, Hudson's Mayor, and Tom DePietro, Hudson's Common Council President, are released from co-hosting the "WGXC Afternoon Show" on Wednesdays and Thursdays, respectively, until after Nov. 2.
Perhaps the largest looming election issue locally is how the 19th Congressional District will be redrawn. New York is losing a Congressional district upstate, and how the local district is redrawn will be a deciding factor. Moderate Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced he will take on incumbent Democrat Antonio Delgado in the 2022 election, wherever the lines are drawn.